Parasite Control in Dogs
Fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal worms – for their small size, these parasites pack a lot of misery for you and your pet. Besides driving your faithful companion crazy, they pose a hazard to pets and people.
Fortunately, you’re not without the means to fight back. What follows are guidelines and recommendations to keep your household safe and happy.
Know the Enemy
The first thing is to know what you’re up against:
- Intestinal Parasites.
Watching a flea-bitten pet scratch herself desperately is a heart-rending sight. Fleas are a common problem for dogs, cats and people, who can also be bitten. As if the bite wasn’t bad enough, many dogs are allergic to fleas.
When a flea bites your dog, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of dogs become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of dogs, which is called Flea Allergy Dermatitis. Other concerns regarding fleas can be found in the article The Dangers of Fleas in Dogs.
Heartworms have the potential to cause serious illness. All it takes is one bite from a mosquito carrying a heartworm larva. In time, the larva develops into a full-fledged adult worm, finding a home in the arteries of the lungs. Without treatment, dogs with heartworm disease will become lethargic, lose their appetite and begin to have difficulty breathing. Heart failure can also occur. For more information, read Canine Heartworm Disease.
The Battle Plan
- Preventing Intestinal Parasites.
- Fighting Fleas and Ticks.
Even minor flea bites can cause severe reactions in some pets. Though the itching component to flea-allergy can be treated with antihistamines or even corticosteriods (prescribed by your veterinarian), the best approach is to kill the flea and prevent its return. There are many products available to treat flea infestations. Some of the over-the-counter powders, sprays and collars (such as those from Hartz® or Sergeants®) contain permethrin, which is moderately effective.
However, the best flea products are prescription – see your veterinarian for these. Products such as Program® (lufenuron) and Sentinel® (which also prevents heartworm disease) prevent development of fleas that attack your dog. If your dog already has fleas, then you need to kill them first with a product like Capstar® brand of nitenpyram, Frontline® brand of fipronil or Advantage® brand of imidacloprid. Some of these have residual effects that can also control ticks. A new product, Revolution®, is a topical treatment to prevent external parasites, heartworm and intestinal parasites. In addition to these prescription products, a collar tag called Preventic® is also effective in controlling ticks on some dogs. Other ideas can be found in Flea Control and Prevention.
In tough cases, you may have to wage all-out war to conquer fleas. This means a comprehensive flea control program, requiring treatment of the pet, the pet’s bed, the yard and the house. A variety of sprays, dips, powders, foams and oral products may be recommended.
Ticks are very difficult to control, but a program of tick prevention and meticulously combing and grooming your dog can keep them at bay. See the related article “How To Remove and Prevent Ticks.”
- Preventing Heartworm Disease.